|Claire Danes, John Krasinski, and Hank Azaria. Photo: Joan Marcus|
By Sarah Burgess
Directed by Thomas Kail
The Public Theater
What's It All About?
High finance, greed, integrity, ambition and loyalty, all rolled into a wad of priceless humor. Normally dialogue about mergers, corporate buy-outs, limited partners and sourcing jobs out of the US probably would cause our eyes to glaze over as we try to follow the plot, but in the skilled hands of playwright Sarah Burgess, Dry Powder (a recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award and a finalist for the Blackburn Prize) is a compelling 95-minute study of modern business dealings and their effects on the people who orchestrate them -- and on the country as a whole as we tolerate them.
Hank Azaria (most known for his work on The Simpsons) is Rick, the senior founding partner of a top-tier financial management firm in New York that has been weathering some really bad press lately. It seems the American pubic (and people world-wide, for that matter) didn't react well when he and his fiance through a million-dollar engagement party complete with elephants just after the firm took over a national grocery store chain and put lots of people out of work. High-strung, workaholic, numbers-crunching Jenny ("Homeland's" Claire Danes) assures Rick the hatred will blow over. The third partner, Seth (John Krasinski of TV's "The Office") isn't so sure. He had advised the boss to call the party off. And it looks like he was right. He always is, after all, he would tell you, when he and Jenny disagree. which is always -- that is why Rick chose them, so he can hear all sides before making a decision.
Meanwhile, Seth brings the partners a super deal that might turn things around for the company. CEO Jeff Schrader (Sanjit DeSilva) is willing to sell his luggage firm at a really unbeatable price, and Seth has plans to expand it by introducing a new line of customizable luggage. Jeff sees a way to cash out his aging owner and get a cushy job and bonus out of the deal for himself to finance the failing side business he and his wife started. There's just one catch. Seth has promised during the negotiations that none of the company's employees will lose their jobs and Jeff is holding him to that. Rick might have other plans, though.
When Jenny gets her analysts crunching numbers she finds that stripping the bleeding luggage company of assets and employees and refocusing production overseas might prove a higher return on the partners' fund investment. Just how far are these folks willing to go --and what level of deceit is acceptable to use when you are looking out for Number 1?
What Are the Highlights?
Easily one of the best plays of the season. Taut direction by Thomas Kail, a stark, cool minimal set by Rachel Hauck to depict the souls of these folks, Original Music and Sound Design by Lindsay Jones and Costume Design by Clint Ramos all merge for the perfect Wall Street backdrop. The performances are stellar, from the bickering, insulting colleagues -- Seth gripped by the remnants of a conscience long ago abandoned by his partners and Jenny annoyingly shaking her head to emphasize every word hurled at Jeff, and confirming her matter-of-fact admission that her analysts "don't love me -- that's how you know their numbers are true."
Azaria finds balance between a personality that appeals to people willing to part with large amounts of money to invest in his schemes, inspires his employees to go to any length for him while communicating a sincere lack of caring about anything or anyone in the end. DeSilva provides a softer, more likable character as contrast to the cut-throat atmosphere generated by Jenny and Seth, but not all is as it seems there either.
What Are the Lowlights?
None. Thoroughly entertaining. Well written.
Dry Powder runs through May 1 at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., NYC. publictheater.org/en/Tickets.